Custer Gallatin National Forest

Snow-covered rocks sit on the side of a hill in the Custer Gallatin National Forest on Nov. 13.

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Visitation in Hyalite Canyon grew dramatically this winter and last summer, according to traffic data from federal officials and a local nonprofit.

Friends of Hyalite, a local nonprofit that tracks traffic in the drainage, and the Bozeman Ranger District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest recorded a sharp rise in visitation from 2019 to 2021.

Counts taken in the summer months showed the number of vehicles traveling up the canyon increased by up to 20% per month from 2019, the Forest Service wrote. Counts taken in December and January showed an even sharper increase.

The number of vehicles driving up the drainage last December increased 32% from December 2019, officials wrote. The rate of increase was 67% from January 2020 to January 2021.

Officials wrote that Hyalite Canyon is one of the most popular destinations for recreation in the state. Visitors are flocking to the area in high numbers largely because of population growth around the valley and a rising interest in outdoor recreation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Forest Service urged people to avoid parking in the roadway or camping overnight at trailheads and pullouts. They also asked visitors to “pack out all trash, pick up after dogs and have campfires in designated fire pits only.”

“Do not burn pallets, as the nails are extremely difficult to remove and they often damage tires,” the Forest Service wrote.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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